BISHKEK: Police in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan said Saturday they have detained 67 supporters of a detained former MP after using stun grenades to break up a rally calling for his release.
At a press briefing deputy chief of police in the capital Bishkek Almaz Orazaliyev said that the protesters were being held on charges of "hooliganism" and "attacking police officials".
Sadyr Japarov, a nationalist politician from the country's eastern Issyk-Kul region was arrested in connection with unrest dating back to 2013 Saturday as he crossed over the border from Kazakhstan.
The GKNB security service said in a statement that Japarov was being held on suspicion of arranging for a regional governor to be taken hostage during a rally in October 2013.
While ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan is the most democratic country in a region dominated by long-ruling strongmen, it has also been the most politically volatile in recent times.
The Muslim-majority country experienced two revolutions that unseated presidents in 2005 and 2010 followed by ethnic violence that left over 400 dead.
Protests have grown in frequency as the country prepares for November presidential elections in which current leader Almazbek Atambayev is constitutionally barred from standing.
An interior ministry statement Saturday said protesters close to the GKNB building in central Bishkek "behaved extremely aggressively" and threw bottles and other objects at police.
A spokesman for the ministry confirmed the use of smoke grenades to AFP by phone.
According to the interior ministry, there were around 500 protesters at the rally.
Japarov, who has spent over three years living abroad and says he wants to stand for president is most famous for his vociferous opposition to the Kumtor gold mine that accounted for 8 percent of Kyrgyzstan's economy last year.
Opponents of the mine have consistently accused it of environmental abuses, allegations the mine's Canadian-headquartered operator Centerra says are groundless.
Several protests against the mine, including the October 2013 protest in which Issyk Kul governor Emil Kaptagayev was briefly taken hostage and doused in petrol, have turned violent.